Um... NY Governor Cuomo made nearly $800K on a book that sold 3K copies?

There’s a bit of a minor mystery regarding New York Governor Andrew Cuomo which was picked up by the Buffalo News this week. The Governor recently released his tax returns in the usual fashion and an interesting entry showed up. He took in a significant amount of money from his publisher for a book which was released several years ago. And by “significant” I mean it was more than $200K. That memoir must be selling like hot cakes to generate that much in royalties after it’s been on the shelves since 2014. But that’s not the solution to this puzzle because the book only sold a total of barely three thousand copies.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reported his income last year more than doubled from the previous year, thanks to another round of royalty payments on a 2014 HarperCollins memoir that saw lackluster sales.

In all, Cuomo has made $783,000 from HarperCollins for his book. The book sold 3,200 copies since it was published in the fall of 2014, according to tracking company NPD BookScan.

That works out to royalty payments to Cuomo of $245 per book.

“All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life’’ had an original list price of $29.99. New copies of the hardcover book were being sold Monday on Amazon for $13.05.

When asked for comment, HarperCollins said that they don’t discuss financial deals they make with their authors. Cuomo’s office was similarly tight lipped, only noting that there was a “contractual obligation” on the part of the publisher to make the payment. And that’s a pretty nice obligation when you consider that the royalty check amounted to roughly 50% more than the Governor’s entire salary for the year from his day job.

A more suspicious person could begin to wonder if there was some sort of dirty dealing going on I suppose. I mean, it’s not as if Cuomo hasn’t been under investigation for campaign cash improprieties for a couple of years now. But the reality is probably something far simpler. Yes, the publisher announced an initial printing run of more than 200,000 books and they wound up only selling roughly 1.5% of them. But that’s the risk you take in that business. Publishers love having big name public figures in their “stable” of authors and will take some significant chances (or even sign a deal where they know they will lose money) to have those names associated with them, particularly if they know it might pay off later in big sales for a subsequent project.

Consider the fact that Simon & Schuster gave Hillary Clinton a $14M advance for her 2016 book Stronger Together (co-authored with Tim Kaine). That one came roaring out the gate and sold a whopping 2,912 copies in its first week, and hardly any more after that. But since it was promoted as a “blueprint” for how Clinton and Kaine would run the nation, if they had won the election it might have turned into a best seller and led to even more books after that. It was a gamble, and one which Simon & Schuster lost, but I doubt they regret it.

But… Andrew Cuomo? Yes, he’s the governor of a large state and he comes from a hefty political dynasty, but he’s not exactly a household name outside of the Empire State. And while he certainly seems to think there’s a presidential bid in his future, he’s nearly the only one who seriously does. At this point he’s got a far better shot at starring in an upcoming corruption trial than giving an acceptance speech at the next Democratic National Convention. Why agree to such a fat deal with him for a book which they obviously must have known wasn’t going to be of interest to many readers outside of his immediate family?

As far as I’m concerned, it’s mystery solved. HarperCollins took a shot in the dark and they lost on that bet. Cuomo negotiated a really favorable deal and now the publisher has to pay him. But it’s great work if you can get it, so well done, Governor.

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